PORT ST. JOHN From the first kickoff to the final whistle, Palm Bay was in control.
The Palm Bay Pirates were able to set the tone of the game and establish their grip on the Space Coast Vipers during the very first drive of the game, as it took them less than 2 minutes to punch the ball into the end zone, via a B.J. Daniels 13-yard run.
From that point on, the Pirates refused to let up, resulting in a 45-0 victory over Space Coast.
The key to Palm Bay’s impressive showing was the fact that their defense consistently stifled an otherwise usually potent Space Coast passing offense.
“We know our defense can fly around,” said Palm Bay head coach Dan Burke.
The defensive line repeatedly got pressure on Space Coast quarterback Bradley Cantrell. The front seven held their ground and gave no room for the Vipers’ electric running backs.
And their defensive backs swarmed all over the field, recording four Interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns by Javonn Roberson and Lito Odenat.
The Pirates’ offense was led by running backsDaniels and Ken McKay. Daniels recorded more than 150 yards rushing and two touchdowns in the first half alone, and looked like the biggest, strongest and fastest player on the field every time he had the ball in his hands. He ended up finishing with three rushing touchdowns.
From his first carry to his final one, Daniels ran with a toughness and decisiveness that was near impossible to match.
McKay was able to tack on several impressive carries and a touchdown in his own right.
Space Coast’s defense had a hard time defending Daniels and the Pirates but they were at the very least opportunistic, as evidenced by several timely pass breakups by their secondary in the passing game and an early forced fumble and fumble recovery near their own goal line in the first quarter, which helped keep the game close for a short time.
Wide receiver Jason Browning and running back Johnny Jones also shined for the Vipers.
Browning was able to almost single handedly carry the Vipers passing game on the first half’s final drive, catching three first downs on that drive alone.
Browning also had a highlight catch and run, leaping over a Pirate defender and high pointing the ball on his way to a 50-yard gain in the 4th quarter.
Jones was unable to find much running room, but he did damage as a pass catcher, gaining 40+ yards on screen passes.
PALM BAY 45, SPACE COAST 0
Palm Bay 14 24 7 0 – 45
Space Coast 0 0 0 0 – 0
PB: B.J. Daniels 13 run (Bellows kick), 10:27
PB: Ken McKay 4 run (Bellows kick), :26
PB: BJ Daniels 17 run (Bellows kick), 9:55
PB: Javonn Roberson 28 interception return (Bellows kick), 9:36
PB: Bellows 28 FG, 3:18
PB: Lino Odenat 13 interception return (Bellows kick), 2:55
PB: BJ Daniels 5 run (Bellows kick), 2:42
At Space Coast Jr./Sr. High, Port St. John
Top performers: Palm Bay: Running Back B.J. Daniels scored three touchdowns, including a big statement run to score on the first drive of the game; Space Coast: Wide Receiver Jason Browning had most of the Vipers big plays, extending several drives himself and hauling in a terrific catch for 50-yards near the end of the game.
Key play: The Vipers’ best chance to score came on the final drive of the first half. With Space Coast inside Palm Bay’s 20-yard line, they opted to try to score through the air. Palm Bay Cornerback Javonn Roberson, who already had an interception returned for a touchdown, tracked the ball through the air and plucked it, denying Space Coast a chance to get on the scoreboard.
Record: Palm Bay (6-0, 3-0 14-5A); Space Coast (2-5, 0-3 14-5A).
Next week: Merritt Island at Palm Bay, 7 p.m.; Satellite at Space Coast, 7 p.m.
Full game report: http://on.flatoday.com/2e0Pczt
John Shipley, For FLORIDA TODAY